An experience that remains an influential part of my early adult life is some of the courses I was required to take during my first year at university. The two in particular that come to mind are the Introduction to Ethics and Introduction to Software Engineering courses I took during my first quarter.

As the names of those two aforementioned courses implies, nothing I learned in these courses was that ground-breaking in and of itself, but what was notable is what it got me to really consider for the first time:

What does it really mean to be ethical? How do we determine what is and isn’t ethical? And from there what actions can we take to try and maximize this?

Although getting students to ask themselves these questions and reflect on them does not guarantee they’ll eventually become professionals who act purely ethically, an understanding of what ethics is and how it plays into the world of technology is as essential today as it was when I took those courses all the way back in late-2012. If anything these questions are even more relevant in light of recent events such as Microsoft’s recent launch of AI-enhanced search (Once I have a chance to play around with the search functionality they advertise, I might do a blog post on that in the future). Such events make these questions far less abstract than they once were and far more concretely relevant in today’s world.

Even for a much more average software developer, one who isn’t breaking new technological ground with each day at the office, such as myself, these questions are still extremely relevant. Even the average person can have a larger impact than most might think at first. Recent events in my personal life have reminded me of this.

Why Does Any of this Even Matter?

The short answer is because software drives the world and has somewhat of impact on shaping it. It’s certainly no replacement for Governments & Economic systems, but even those institutions have software driving some of their processes at their core.